[Footnote: Paper lately read before the Society of Telegraph Engineers and Electricians.]

By Professor D. E. HUGHES, F.R.S., Vice-President.


The apparatus needed for researches upon evident external polarity requires no very great skill or thought, but simply an apparatus to measure correctly the force of the evident repulsion or attraction; in the case of neutrality, however, the external polarity disappears, and we consequently require special apparatus, together with the utmost care and reflection in its use.

From numerous researches previously made by means of the induction balance, the results of which I have already published, I felt convinced that in investigating the cause of magnetism and neutrality I should have in it the aid of the most powerful instrument of research ever brought to bear upon the molecular construction of iron, as indeed of all metals. It neglects all forces which do not produce a change in the molecular structure, and enables us to penetrate at once to the interior of a magnet or piece of iron, observing only its peculiar structure and the change which takes place during magnetization or apparent neutrality.

The induction balance is affected by three distinct arrangements of molecular structure in iron and steel, by means of which we have apparent external neutrality.

Fig 1 shows several polar directions of the molecules as indicated by the arrows. Poisson assumed as a necessity of his theory, that a molecule is spherical; but Dr. Joule's experimental proof of the elongation of iron by one seven-hundred and-twenty-thousandth of its length when magnetized, proves at least that its form is not spherical; and, as I am unable at present to demonstrate my own views as to its exact form, I have simply indicated its polar direction by arrows--the dotted oval lines merely indicating its limits of free elastic rotation.

In Fig. 1, at A, we have neutrality by the mutual attraction of each pair of molecules, being the shortest path in which they could satisfy their mutual attractions. At B we have the case of superposed magnetism of equal external value, rendering the wire or rod apparently neutral, although a lower series of molecules are rotated in the opposite direction to the upper series, giving to the rod opposite and equal polarities. At C we have the molecules arranged in a circular chain around the axis of a wire or rod through which an electric current has passed. At D we have the evident polarity induced by the earth's directive influence when a soft iron rod is held in the magnetic meridian. At E we have a longitudinal neutrality produced in the same rod when placed magnetic west, the polarity in the latter case being transversal.

In all these cases we have a perfectly symmetrical arrangement, and I have not yet found a single case in well-annealed soft iron in which I could detect a heterogeneous arrangement, as supposed by Ampere, De la Rive, Weber, Wiedermann, and Maxwell.

We can only study neutrality with perfectly soft Swedish iron. Hard iron and steel retain previous magnetizations, and an apparent external neutrality would in most cases be the superposition of one magnetism upon another of equal external force in the opposite direction, as shown at B, Fig. 1. Perfectly soft iron we can easily free, by vibrations, from the slightest trace of previous magnetism, and study the neutrality produced under varying conditions.

Neutrality 392 2a

FIG. 1.

If we take a flat bar of soft iron, of 30 or more centimeters in length, and hold it vertically (giving while thus held a few torsions, vibrations, or, better still, a few slight blows with a wooden mallet, in order to allow its molecules to rotate with perfect freedom), we find its lower end to be of strong north polarity, and its upper end south. On reversing the rod and repeating the vibrations, we find that its lower end has precisely a similar north polarity. Thus the iron is homogeneous, and its polarity symmetrical. If we now magnetize this rod to produce a strong south pole at its lower portion, we can gradually reverse this polarity, by the influence of earth's magnetism, by slightly tapping the upper extremity with a small wooden mallet. If we observe this rod by means of a direction needle at all parts, and successively during its gradual passage from one polarity to the other, there will be no sudden break into a haphazard arrangement, but a gradual and perfectly symmetrical rotation from one direction to that of the opposite polarity.

If this rod is placed east and west, having first, say, a north polarity to the right, we can gradually discharge or rotate the molecules to zero, and as gradually reverse the polarity by simply inclining the rod so as to be slightly influenced by earth's magnetism; and at no portion of this passage from one polarity to neutrality, and to that of the opposite name, will there be found a break of continuity of rotation or haphazard arrangement. If we rotate this rod slowly, horizontally or vertically, taking observations at each few degrees of rotation of an entire revolution, we find still the same gradual symmetrical change of polarity, and that its symmetry is as complete at neutrality as in evident polarity.

In all these cases there is no complete neutrality, the longitudinal polarity simply becoming transversal when the rod is east and west. F, G, H, I, J, Fig. 1, show this gradual change, H being neutral longitudinally, but polarized transversely. If, in place of the rod, we take a small square soft iron plate and allow its molecules freedom under the sole influence of the earth's magnetism, then we invariably find the polarity in the direction of the magnetic dip, no matter in what position it be held, and a sphere of soft iron could only be polarized in a similar direction Thus we can never obtain complete external neutrality while the molecules have freedom and do not form an internal closed circle of mutual attractions; and whatever theory we may adopt as to the cause of polarity in the molecule, such as Coulomb's, Poisson's, Ampere's, or Weber's, there can exist no haphazard arrangement in perfectly soft iron, as long as it is free from all external causes except the influence of the earth; consequently these theories are wrong in one of their most essential parts.